Hypable Exclusive Author Interview: Leah Cypess

9:00 am EDT, November 9, 2012
Exclusive

Leah Cypess is the author of the young adult fantasy novel Mistwood, and its companion Nightspell. Her work has earned starred reviews in Kirkus and acclaim from the ALA Booklist and School Library Journal. Leah wrote in her spare time through law school and legal practice, and now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband and their three children.

Could you tell us 5 random facts about yourself?

1. I like blue

2. I also like green, actually.

3. I think dark blue and forest green match and look great together. And I sometimes dress accordingly, even though everybody I know disagrees violently with my assessment.

4. At other times, I wear clothes that don’t match, but it’s not quite with the same sense of social defiance. It’s just because I have a bad habit of not noticing that clothes are dirty until I’m wearing them and have five minutes to get out the door.

5. I don’t really care that much about colors, or even clothes, in a general sense. But you should beware of saying “random” to me.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. In first grade, I wrote a story from the point of view of an ice-cream cone, and when I was eights years old I told my grandmother I intended to be an author when I grew up. (Actually, I intended to be the youngest ever published author, but then I saw this tv news interview with a 7-year-old who had sent a peace poem to Russia, and my dreams died a sudden and painful death.)

My journey to being a published writer, however, was far more complicated. Also at around the age of eight, I started trying to notice how publishers packaged their books and who they published, because I figured this would help me “pick a publisher” when I was ready. I decided I’d go with Greenwillow Books, since they published Diana Wynne Jones and she was my favorite author.

At the age of fifteen, I started sending books and stories to various magazines. I would stop off at the library on my way home from school, go to the Reference section, and painfully copy out entries from Writer’s Market. I got, of course, slews of rejections. I knew to expect that, so my confidence was unabated. There was only one letter that stung – from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, the only magazine I actually subscribed to (well, that and Cat Fancy – even though I didn’t have a cat – but that’s a very long story). I loved the selection in that magazine and they were all exactly the types of stories I wrote, so I figured they would be the first to publish me.

But my first rejection letter from Marion Zimmer Bradley was a form letter which explained that, “I am sorry to say that in this story you did not manage to get me sufficiently interested in your characters to care whether they lived and did well or whether a convenient earthquake came and swallowed them all up on the last page.” And yes, you read correctly. That was the standard language on one of her form letters.

At the age of 17, I finally got my first story accepted to publication – at Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. Thick skins are very important in this business.

I then started sending my first full-length book manuscript to editors. I collected rejections from pretty much every imprint in existence. Over the next five manuscripts, I slowly graduated from form rejections, to “not this one, but send us your next one” rejections, to personal regretful rejections explaining in length why this manuscript wasn’t a good fit, to revision requests, to rejections that came from the acquisitions committee rather than the editor.

Finally, a mere 15 years after my first submission, I got an offer to publish Mistwood. It came from Greenwillow Books.

What has surprised you about writing and publishing?

When it comes to writing, I’m surprised by every book I write. I always think I have a sense of where the story is going, and somewhere along the way, it always takes a left turn. That’s one of my favorite parts of writing, and one of the reasons I don’t outline.

With publishing, pretty much everything surprised me. I had never thought about what happened afterward; that offer to publish, to have a real book with my name on it, was the gold at the end of the rainbow for me.

Why do you feel drawn to the stories you write?

With short stories, I’m usually drawn to an idea that I think is cool and unusual and/or looks at an issue I really care about through a different angle. With novels, I usually need two things – a character that comes to life in my mind and a situation that spurs my imagination.

At what point in the development of an idea do you know that it will become a full-length novel?

It depends on the idea. With Mistwood, I knew somewhere in the middle of the second chapter that this wasn’t actually going to be a short story. With Nightspell, I knew from the start it was a full-length book idea.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

I shut all criticism out of my mind, so I can’t answer that.

Just kidding. Though to be honest, there isn’t any particular critique or review that sticks out in my mind – I do know what seems to bother a lot of people, and those are the things I try hardest to work on. With Mistwood, a number of people felt the secondary characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could be, so that was something I tried to correct while writing Nightspell. With Nightspell, a lot of people didn’t like that there wasn’t enough romance, which is somewhat frustrating to me since I never intended the book to be a romance – but Barnes & Noble shelved it under paranormal romance, so people understandably felt that they didn’t get what they had expected.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received?

What means the most to me are those reviewers who have become fans – who are eagerly anticipating my next book and will read it no matter what it’s about. That’s how I feel about my own favorite authors, and though I don’t think I’m in their league, it’s really amazing to think that there are people who feel that way about my writing.

Where’s your favorite place to write?

A beach on a windy day. Or, in reality: the playground when my kids have friends to play with and therefore don’t interrupt me.

Do you most relate to your main characters, or to secondary characters?

I tend to write in a pretty limited third-person POV, which makes me relate most to my main characters. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the characters who are most like me.

How do you approach writing villains?

I don’t know if I write “villains” (though come to think of it, I may have in Nightspell). I think everyone has reasons for the things they do, even when those things are evil. I also think that understanding someone’s actions is not the same as condoning them.

What is your favorite chapter or scene you’ve written recently?

I have this tendency to love the next thing I’m going to write the best. That said, I recently wrote a rough draft of a scene for the sequel of Deathsworn, and while I can’t say anything about it without major spoilers, I kind of hug myself thinking about it.

(Sorry. I know that is massively uninformative. If it makes you feel any better, I give it about a 30% chance that in a week I’ll look at the scene again and realize it needs to be cut.)

Which is easier to write: The first line or the last line?

The first line!

Which one YA novel do you wish you had when you were a teen?

Split by Swati Avasthi. First, because it’s amazing, and second, because it deals with a topic (spouse abuse) I’ve never really understood – and probably still don’t, but I now understand what I don’t understand.

Do you have things you need in order to write? (i.e. coffee, cupcakes, music?)

Paper. Pen. That’s about it.

What are you working on now?

The aforementioned sequel to Deathsworn. It’s my first time writing a sequel, and it’s been a challenge, but there’s also something very satisfying about getting to stay with the same character for so long.

For more about Leah Cypess:

You can find Cypess’ books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and contact her through her website at leahcypess.com.

On May 2, 2016, J.K. Rowling commemorated the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts by apologizing for killing Lupin, and telling us that the Grim Reaper almost chose Arthur instead.

Father figures have always been an important aspect of the Harry Potter series, and Rowling always knew that a few of them (RIP Sirius, Dumbledore, Lupin) would have to be killed during the Chosen One’s 7-year journey. Interestingly, Rowling revealed this week that Lupin could’ve been alive today if it weren’t for the fact that Arthur Weasley made it through Order of the Phoenix. As the author explains it:

This is a hard pill to swallow, and the first time we’re explicitly hearing that Arthur living meant Lupin dying. So, we thought we should debate this topic. Did J.K. Rowling make the right choice when she chose to kill Remus Lupin over Arthur Weasley? We asked two of our writers to each defend a position.

Selina: Yes, killing Lupin was the right choice

arthur-weasley-and-harry-potter

Let’s journey back in time. The year is 2003, and you’ve been up for 72 hours straight, ploughing through the overwhelmingly long Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It’s been a bumpy ride, Harry’s fifth year being decidedly unpleasant, and you’re emotionally exhausted. Then you get to the Department of Mysteries, and here we are: Sirius is dead. Just like that, the man who could have been Harry’s adoptive father, his way out of the hellish Dursley household, is gone.

Now imagine you going through all that, except Arthur Weasley had also died in the middle of the book. You wouldn’t have been able to take it.

Ultimately we might argue that J.K. Rowling should just have kept them both alive, but at the end of the day, it was important for her to kill off one of the series’ two fathers, to achieve the symmetry of leaving a child without its parent(s) like Harry had been.

Not only did killing both Lupin and Tonks leave baby Teddy an orphan, perfectly mirroring Harry’s own experience, but it was also — arguably — an act of mercy to kill Lupin rather than Arthur. Teddy Lupin would still get to grow up with people who loved him, knowing that his parents died heroes, while Harry and the Weasleys (who’d already lost Fred) would get to keep their family intact. Considering the lengths J.K. Rowling went to to effectively end Harry’s childhood (killing Sirius, Dumbledore, and Hedwig), leaving both Weasley parents alive allowed us to end the series on a hopeful note. The parents don’t always have to die in order for the children to grow up.

I’m not glad that Lupin died. But if the choice was between him and Arthur, I think Jo made the right call. Knowing that Harry and his friends could still visit the Burrow after the Battle of Hogwarts — and that even if the place was a lot less bright without Fred, it still felt like a safe, loving home — is a great comfort, especially knowing how much Harry valued the Weasleys and the surrogate family they formed around him.

Laura: Killing Lupin was wrong, she sacrificed the last of the Marauders and the keys to the past

lupin-and-harry-potter

Let’s revise the top of this article, shall we? His name is Remus Lupin, not just Lupin, the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher that Harry and company ever had. Without Remus Lupin the trio would have been dead: no Expecto Patronum, no recognizing Bogarts, no practical experience with Grindylows, Red Caps, or Hinkypunks. Harry and every student in his year was left with a substandard skill set thanks to Quirrell and Lockhart. Without question, Remus Lupin laid the groundwork for the success that was later achieved by Dumbledore’s Army. He made up for lost time, in a positive and uplifting manner, and was the friendly guidance the students needed.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and what better fictional teacher to appreciate than Remus Lupin. He never underestimated his students, he challenged them to do more than they ever thought possible. He didn’t just spend time with shining stars like Hermione, but he made time for people that no one else cared to. Would Neville Longbottom have ever had the confidence to succeed leading Hogwarts without Harry, Ron, and Hermione without Remus Lupin having taken a personal interest? Every other teacher wrote Neville off as either incompetent, a fool, or both.

The one thing Remus Lupin provided to Harry that Arthur Wesley couldn’t was insight into Harry’s past. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on Arthur, but it’s not a role Arthur could ever fill. Remus Lupin could talk about James and Lily from first-hand experience: funny stories, hopes, sadness, all of it. Harry was left with no one to fill that role. There is an irreplaceable void in Harry’s life thanks to Remus’ death. Harry needed Remus.

Had Arthur died it would have been tragic, but his tightly bonded family would have had each other. His children were well grounded, knew who they were, and were ready to face the world. Arthur had done an amazing job raising them along with Molly. Remus didn’t have the chance to reach his fullest potential. Had Remus lived, he and Harry would have been new parents at relatively the same time. They would have progressed from a teacher/student relationship to just being friends. They would have watched their boys grow up together and been there for each other as parents in the post-war world.

Now it’s your turn! Vote in our poll and hit the comments to debate it

UnREAL season 2 is gonna be amazing, if this trailer is anything to go by.

We were blown away by the first season of UnREAL, the Lifetime drama tracking the inner workings of a The Bachelor-style reality show.

Full of awful people doing awful things, UnREAL had it all: Romance, intrigue, betrayal, death, and love. It unravels the mysticism of reality show culture (tl;dr: It’s all made up for ratings), while telling pretty compelling stories about selfish people.

In season 2, Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) are back for Everlasting‘s new season, with new bachelor Darius Hill (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s B.J. Britt) ready to win the hearts of the female contestants.

And if this trailer is any indication, this season is gonna be even wilder than the last:

Refreshingly, UnREAL doesn’t shy away from contentious, real-world issues. Having a black contestant is something The Bachelor itself has not yet managed to do, and of course, the reactions to that on the show are going to reflect both the good and bad parts of humanity.

Related: Why we need UnREAL‘s complicated feminism (opinion)

We’re hugely excited to see how UnREAL handles that, and of course to find out what exactly happened to Rachel after the season 1 finale — where, if you remember her scorned ex-lover Jeremy liaised with her mother to get her back on the medication which Rachel claimed ruined her life.

On the topic of life-ruiners, another returning player this year is last season’s bachelor Adam Cromwell (Freddie Stroma), whose whirlwind relationship with Rachel almost destroyed the lives of everyone involved with the reality show’s production.

Creators Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro have said there is some unfinished business between the pair, but we can’t exactly imagine them riding off into the sunset together!

‘UnREAL’ season 2 premieres Monday, June 6 on Lifetime

The Tony Award nominations were announced early this morning by actors Nikki M. James and Andrew Rannells. Who has a chance to take home the coveted award next month? Well, Hamilton and a bunch of other people.

Let’s get the lede out of the way: Hamilton was nominated for a whopping 16 awards. The former record stood at 15 nominations, held by both Billy Elliot and The Producers. The latter then went on to win 12 of those nominations, can Hamilton do the same?

James Corden will host the Tony Awards, to be held at Radio City Music Hall, next month. If his prior attendance at the Tony’s was any indication (he won Best Actor in a Play in 2012 for One Man, Two Guvnors) then it is sure to be an entertaining evening.

Check out the below list of Tony Award nominations for a variety of categories in both the musical and play sections. If you want to look at the full list, you can do so on the Tony’s website.

Check out the nominations for the 2016 Tony Awards for musicals:

Best Musical
Bright Star
Hamilton
School of Rock – The Musical
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Waitress

Best Revival of a Musical
The Color Purple
Fiddler on the Roof
She Loves Me
Spring Awakening

Best Book of a Musical
Bright Star
Hamilton
School of Rock – The Musical
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Original Score
Steve Martin, Edie Brickell, Bright Star
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Glenn Sltater, Andrew Lloyd Webber School of Rock
Sara Bareilles, Waitress

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Alex Brightman, School of Rock – The Musical
Danny Burnstein, Fiddler on the Roof
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
Cynthia Erivo The Color Purple
Phillipa Soo, Hamilton
Jessie Muller, Waitress

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, Disaster!
Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Direction of a Musical
Michael Arden, Spring Awakening
John Doyle, The Color Purple
Scott Ellis, She Loves Me
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Choreography
Hamilton
Shuffle Along
Fiddler on the Roof
Dames at Sea
On Your Feet: The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Check out the nominations for the 2016 Tony Awards for plays:

Best Play
Eclipsed
The Father
The Humans
King Charles III

Best Revival of a Play
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge
Blackbird
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Noises Off

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Jeff Daniels, Blackbird
Frank Langella, The Father
Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III
Mark Strong, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Laurie Metcalf, Misery
Lupita Nyong’o, Eclipsed
Sophie Okonedo, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
Michelle Williams, Blackbird

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Bill Camp, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
David Furr, Noises Off
Richard Goulding, King Charles III
Michael Shannon, Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Pascale Armand, Eclipsed
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Andrea Martin, Noises Off
Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed

Best Direction of a Play
Rupert Goold, King Charles III
Jonathan Kent, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Joe Mantello, The Humans
Liesl Tommy, Eclipsed
Ivo Van Hove, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge

The 69th Annual Tony Awards will be held on Sunday, June 12 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS

This article is a part of Hypable’s inaugural Broadway Week in celebration of the 2016 Tony nominations.